Swan’s way

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We asked about convicted fraudster Swansea employed

Senior academics at a controversial Welsh university which employed a fraudster jailed in America and was exposed by The Eye, have questioned a new table showing the man in charge offers good value for money with a salary of £251,000 a year.

In The Sunday Times Good University Guide, Swansea University was ninth for ‘low’ Vice-Chancellor (VC) pay while coming in 36th in their table.

One staff member told us: “These figures are ridiculous. How can anyone defend giving him (Richard Davies, VC, of Swansea) a salary like he gets, when we have employed a crook?”. Another said to The Eye: “This has caused consternation among staff after everything that has happened”.

Swansea thinks we are ‘vexatious’

We revealed how Swansea University employed Stephen Chan on a contract at the university’s contentious School of Management. Yet routine checks would have shown that Chan had been imprisoned by a court in America for four years and three months, and ordered to pay more than $12,500,000 in compensation.

His jail term, ordered by a court in Boston, was followed by three years of supervised release, after he admitted one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of mail fraud. The fraud only ended when the FBI searched one of the companies’ offices in August 1998, using a warrant.
Chan now lives with his mother in Poughkeepsie, New York,
VC Richard Davies is ‘good value’ at £251,000 a year

but mounting concerns about his time at Swansea have refused to disappear, and in the early days The Eye was virtually alone in reporting them. 

The Eye Editor, Phil Parry, asked a series of detailed questions about Chan’s PhD, and whether officials in charge knew of his background before he was employed, but Mr Parry was told the university “is not obliged to provide you with the requested information”. In answer to another question, the response came that it was a “Vexatious Request”.

  • After publication of the story about Chan The Eye was contacted and given a statement as follows:  “The University has not denied the questions, but refused to provide answers to the question”.
Chan was imprisoned by Boston law courts

Our revelations came soon after the previous regime at the university’s management school also hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The school had been run by Nigel Piercy, where his son Niall, and wife were also employed, but he left after making the news over serious allegations. Niall Piercy left several months after describing a colleague as a “sack of human waste” in the teaching organisation, yet started a company specialising in “first-degree level higher education”.

Niall Piercy of Swansea standing beside his father Nigel

Niall Piercy was ‘Chair of Entrepreneurship’ at the school, and was first suspended then quit after relentless pressure, following disclosures by us. He was described in company records as ‘Director’ and ‘Secretary’ of ‘Enterprise National College’ which was incorporated on September 14.

But Dr Piercy has an interesting background to start a company for educating people. In the one email he talked of a colleague as “useless, lazy and a sack of human waste” while in another he described his staff in belittling terms but this cannot be shown for legal reasons.

John Hughes lives in a fine house with nice furnishings

Other universities in Wales have also been named and shamed in the media.

John Hughes, the VC of Bangor University, which is one of the smallest universities in the UK, is living in a grace-and-favour country house with thousands of pounds worth of Laura Ashley furnishings. His perk comes on top of a £245,000 salary.

Bangor University must make cuts elsewhere

The property, on the banks of the Cadnant River, cost £475,000 in 2010 and had £267,000 of renovations with £16,000 of Laura Ashley furnishings that included £700 cushions. The house offers a picturesque garden in an acre of land with a conservatory and library.

A spokesman for Bangor said: “After being purchased for £475,000, (the house) was independently valued at £750,000 in 2011 and, like other assets owned by the university, it could be sold in the future if the university wishes.”

Glynis Breakwell was happy with her salary

Up to 170 jobs are under threat at Bangor with a 10 per cent pay cut one of the options to save some of the roles.

The growing controversy there comes at a difficult time for universities, with a row over VC salaries, and when the jobs of those below them are at risk. Dame Glynis Breakwell, was VC of the University of Bath, the best paid in the UK on £468,000, and lived in a five-bedroom apartment.  She had £20,000 to spend on a housekeeper and other expenses for the property.

Leicester – the head here lives in a 17th century hall

Two months ago she agreed to step down, but faced further criticism when it was revealed  she will continue to be paid her full salary after she leaves her post.

The head of Leicester University lives in Knighton Hall, a 17th-century property with extensive grounds. The University of Strathclyde was criticised in 2015 for spending £339,000 refurbishing a five-floor townhouse used by its Principal and VC.

Elizabeth Treasure – job losses are ‘regrettable’

But Bangor is not alone in threatening job losses while the people in charge take home huge salaries.

The present VC of Aberystwyth, Elizabeth Treasure, has told workers that redundancies are “regrettable” at her university, but they may be necessary to save money. In a letter to staff, seen by The Eye, she wrote: “…redundancies are highly likely unless we can identify alternative solutions to resolve the budget deficit”.

The mainstream press followed our revelations

The news, first revealed by us, was later confirmed in the mainstream media. WalesOnline said:  “It is understood that up to 150 jobs are at risk as the university aims to save £11m over the next two years. The news follows similar announcements at the University of South Wales and the University of Wales Trinity St David”.

Colin Riordan was paid thousands of pounds

When Professor Treasure was at Cardiff University she was also dogged by controversy over expensive furnishings revealed by The Eye. In May 2015 we showed how the cost for furnishing and equipping her room was more than £3,220 greater than the money spent on the office of her superior, the VC, Colin Riordan.

But Professor Riordan is no stranger to controversy either.

Cushions are expensive…

In January of that year he hit the headlines after racking up £1,010.98 on taxis, hotels, rail tickets and hospitality between June 2013 and May 2014. Professor Riordan, who in 2014 was paid more than £250,000, was also reimbursed £266.50 for a two-night stay in London, as well as £109 for a single night.

Figures like these have prompted university staff to brand as “farcical” tables which show the institutions offer ‘good’ value for money.

 

 

 

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